Role of Agricultural science and Food Technology in Meeting National Problem
The agricultural sector presents key opportunities for improving nutrition and health. But this connection is often not given due attention, despite parallel initiatives across the three sectors.
The potential impacts of agricultural activities on health and nutrition extend across a number of channels. One area of impact is household ability to produce, purchase and consume more, better and cheaper food. Over the past 40 years, agricultural advances, such as the Green Revolution, led to the doubling of cereal production and yields, improving the well-being of many people and providing a springboard for remarkable economic growth. More recently, biofortification efforts to breed and disseminate crops that are rich in micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc and iron, have improved vitamin and mineral intake.
Another important contribution of agriculture towards nutrition and health is increased rural income, allowing people to improve their diets. The poor are overwhelmingly located in rural areas and derive a significant share of their income from agricultural activities. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition. Agricultural activities can also generate economy-wide effects such as increasing government revenues to fund health, infrastructure and nutrition intervention programmes.
Agricultural intensification has been essential to feed the world’s growing population, but it has also brought its own risks for people’s health, including zoonotic diseases, water- and food-borne diseases, occupational hazards, and natural resource degradation and overuse. Similarly, water, energy (electricity) and fertilizer subsidies have been linked to distorted consumption and production choices and the crowding out of public investment.
Using this knowledge, agricultural strategies should be designed to minimize risks and maximize the benefits to nutrition and health across the entire value chain, from production to consumption. Important steps include the development and dissemination of more nutritious, biofortified food consumed by poor people, and public information campaigns and pricing policies that address both under nutrition and obesity. Policy-makers should eliminate distortive subsidies and use the resulting savings to diversify agricultural production and consumption to include more nutritious food products such as beans, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Such initiatives should also focus on improved processing practices and policies, including better transportation and storage infrastructure that reduces food loss and waste.
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